Tag Archives: West Hill

Van Gogh Alive! at The Brighton Dome

Starry, starry night, Paint your palette blue and gray….Gilly Smith and Brighton poet and artist Rosy Carrick to The Dome to immerse themselves in the world of Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh Alive UK has produced a powerfully immersive experience at Brighton Dome, with more than 3,000 images projected onto surfaces taking us into the heart of his artistic expression and the depths of his struggle with his mental health. Using quotes from his own letters to pull us right into the centre of his extraordinary mind, it’s a poignant reminder of how much he still has to say about everything we care, or we should care about – love, friendship, time, nature. Mental health.

The soaring musical score – Handel, Satie, Barber, as well as Lakme’s Flower Duet, forever appropriated by British Airways, is no doubt designed to tug the tears, but it works. The babies playing on the floor, alive with sunflowers and starry night, were the only ones not wiping their eyes.

And what a brilliant way to discuss mental health. This travelling exhibition has already captivated over 8.5 million visitors in over 85 cities worldwide, and in the UK has partnered with Mind to enable free tickets to be given to those who need to see this most.

I wonder what Vincent would have made of it all. Actually, it’s pretty clear after immersing ourselves in his thoughts. “I feel there is nothing more artistic than to love people”, he tells us from the walls of The Dome.

I asked Brighton poet and artist, Rosy Carrick, who spent a month in the summer of 2021 in Arles where Van Gogh lived in the 1880s immersing herself in the mind of a man who spoke to her broken soul of the time.  She also travelled to Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, where he died in 1890, after painting over 80 canvases in about 70 days. Much of Rosy’s theatre work is based on her fascination with time travel, and reading his letters among the vivid Provencale palate collapsed the centuries for her into an unusually intimate connection. “He talks in such depth about the amazing colours; the yellow and the blue”, she told me as we walked through the exhibition. “It feels like he must be exaggerating, but when you’re actually in those places you feel like you’re in a painting all the time.”

As the narrative of Vincent’s life was played out on the walls, she gave me a unique commentary. “The thing I love so much about him is his letters,” she said, referring to more than the 2000 letters he wrote, many to his brother Theo. “He’s so endlessly optimistic and passionate, and takes his work so seriously. He talks about it being part of an ongoing artistic conversation; that even if nothing comes from what he himself is doing, it will be a link in the chain, a part of the conversation taken up by the next artist. He believed that so firmly. You can’t help but just be in awe of him.”

Van Gogh Alive is the story of a brilliant man, too beautiful perhaps for this world, as Don McLean sang. He wrote that he put his heart and soul in his paintings, and in the process, he lost his mind. I asked Rosy if, as an artist, she can relate to that.  “Not so much with the art” she said, “but I do feel like I’m sometimes too full of intensity and I need a way to smooth it out of me. And sometimes you get too much into the thing that you become entangled in it, and you stay entangled.” She explained that despite the common perception that Van Gogh channelled his despair into his art, it was actually impossible for him to produce anything during the episodes of his mental illness. It was only when he became more lucid again that he could paint the madness into form.  “What you get from his letters”, she said, “is that the art was very much his way of staying alive”. “I dream of painting, and then I paint my dream”, whispers Vincent from the walls.

If there isn’t already a Van Gogh book of affirmations on the Mental Health shelves of all good book shops, there surely will be soon.  “What would life be if we didn’t have the courage to try anything?”  he suggests to the room. Rosy remembered one of his letters to Theo. “He talks about the urgent need ‘to become alive to that which is damaging to the spirit’. That letter really made me examine myself – in fact it changed my whole life.”

His spirit of optimism is captured in one of the most poignant quotes of the whole exhibition, the words of an artist who would never see financial success in his own lifetime, whose battle with mental illness had him commit himself to an institution, who famously cut off his own ear after a row with fellow artist Paul Gaugin, and killed himself aged 37.  “I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell, but the time will come when people will recognise that they’re worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.” 

“There’s this total transparency and directness in the way that he expresses himself,” said Rosy. “He manages to be so melancholy and so endlessly hopeful at the same time. That’s what’s so beautiful about him.”

Van Gogh Alive will run from 20 May to 3 September 2023. To purchase tickets and learn more about the experience, visit the Van Gogh Alive website:


Follow Gilly Smith at @foodgillysmith and Rosy Carrick at @rosycarrick

There’s also a Spotify playlist to go with the exhibition:


The Great Baldini

I kinda like magic. I like the idea of it, the mystery of it, the promise of something, of life being not quite as it seems. And I’ve always loved the mix of show, of comedy and magic – well, I once wrote the biography of Tommy Cooper, so… kinda biased. Which brings us to…

The Great Baldini, who is, according to the press release, a “legendary magician and illusionist”, sounds right up our alley and has a new show called ILLUSIONATI: A Magical Conspiracy, at the Brighton Fringe.

It’s 1930s Britain: The Great Baldini is a fixture of the British Music Hall Magic Circuit. However, he has never quite achieved the success he feels he truly deserves, and he suspects that an unseen power is working against him. When Baldini obtains the diary of the Great Lafayette, a clue scribbled on the last page identifies a secret cabal of Magicians (the ILLUSIONATI) as this power.

Baldini is determined to find and confront the ILLUSIONATI and finally take his rightful place as the preeminent magician of his age. The show will take audiences on a thrilling journey of mystery and intrigue, as Baldini reveals the secrets of the ILLUSIONATI. Combining comedy, storytelling and miraculous effects, Baldini will captivate and amaze audiences of all ages.

‘ILLUSIONATI: A Magical Conspiracy’ (50 minutes) By the Great Baldini 
29th May – 2nd June | Laughing Horse @ The Walrus (BN1 1AD) | 18:45 | £10 (£8 conc)

3rd-4th June | Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant (BN1 3GJ) | 14:45 | £10 (£8 conc)


Conservation Advisory Group – by Jim Gowans

I’ve represented West Hill on the Conservation Advisory Group  (CAG) for over a decade and while very happy to continue, I’m keen to involve others in the Group. You don’t need particular qualifications other than an interest in our environment. 

CAG is a collection of local groups and societies independent from the council, and provides advice and comments on planning applications affecting listed buildings, conservation areas and so on. An elected representative of CAG is entitled to attend meetings of the Planning Committee and speak in support of CAG’s comments.

In my opinion, it is regrettable that the majority of planning applications are of poor quality and fail to preserve let alone enhance the character of our city’s conservation areas.

The first two applications featured here are such examples, the third shows 76 to 79 Buckingham Road which has greatly improved the street scene. For each, CAG’s reasons and other details are available on the BHCC planning website.

BH2022/02722 17 Buckingham Rd BN1 3RH

Demolition of existing garage and erection of a detached two storey plus basement, one bedroom dwelling (see pic, top right). The Group recommended refusal. Planning officers also refused to grant permission for this development on the corner of Buckingham Rd and Albert Rd. 

BH2022/03758 Footway Opposite 43 Dyke Rd BN1 3JA 

Installation of 20m high telecommunications monopole supporting 6no antennas and the necessary supporting cabinets and equipment. The Group recommended refusal, asserting that it would cause serious harm to the character of the area. Again, planning officers subsequently refused to grant permission for this 5G mast and its ancillary cabinets. 

BH2016/01766 and further applications 76-79 and 80 Buckingham Rd

CAG recommended approval in 2016 for the first of these proposals and is pleased to see that the restoration and development of the four Victorian properties is now complete. The re-instatement of cast iron railings is particularly well executed (see picture), while the plaque to the former headmaster of the Brighton Grammar School, which once occupied the site of no.80, has been preserved.

Unfortunately the corner of the site (no.80) remains derelict. There have been six more planning applications since the 2016 application was granted and one wonders how many more applications and how many more years it will take before the site is built out. It should be noted that the “affordable units” are now proposed for this site, but how much longer can those in need of such housing afford to wait?

Do contact The Whistler if you would like to involved. 

The final score is… just detail 

This was the scoreline after only 10 seconds and although it didn’t finish like this, it was probably our most valuable lesson this season: realising that the final score is such an incredibly small part of football. 

The Seagulls dominate football in this city not just through their flagship professional teams but the incredible work that is done through Albion in the Community which not only provides football sessions for so many, but they are also building sustainable and affordable homes in Lancing. Unlike most other professional teams, it’s hard to see them as an enemy. Until you’re on the pitch. 

A dramatic penalty shootout win against Saltdean United set up a semi-final clash against Brighton’s u21 side. A huge reward for our players and a perfect opportunity to test our mantra that we’re good enough to beat anyone. 

The game was scheduled to take place at the end of February half-term which was good for a number of reasons; it allowed those of us who work in education time to watch the 10 hours of footage we acquired of the Brighton team and plan a strategy based on it. The fact we were watching Brighton play against Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs didn’t deter us from our plan. Conveniently for us the game was also scheduled to take place during the international break. This though impacted our opponents more than us. 

The day before the game I found myself on the bridge across Falmer station as fans flocked to watched the men’s team play Fulham, I forced leaflets into the hands of at least 100 fans and in an attempt to conjure up support from our opponents international fanbase employed Google translate to learn some basic Japanese.

The David Brent antics didn’t stop there unfortunately. The half-time scoreline read Montpelier Villa 1 – 8 Brighton and Hove Albion and I felt the best thing I could do was get on the tannoy and tell some jokes to the large crowd. 

The harshest lesson we learned that day and one that I’m still struggling to come to terms with is that we’re not as good as Arsenal, Chelsea or even Spurs. Brighton certainly had no problem addressing any delusions of grandeur we had. 

Brighton have since gone on to win the Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup and deservedly so scoring 17 goals in their four games and only conceding two in the process. Admittedly 11 of those goals scored were against us but those two goals they conceded were also us. Both of them. 

Not only will those two players have a story to dine out on for the rest of their lives, their team-mates will never forget the day they shared a pitch with Brighton and can be safe in the knowledge

that their approach as a team was not to sit back and wait for the onslaught of the seagulls but to be positive, be proactive and not be afraid of taking opportunities when they come. 

The result may not have gone our way but there were some moments that are unforgettable, our u10 mascots and their unerring support of our team, the sheer volume of supporters which was mainly family and friends but still gave our side the chance to play in front of a vocal home crowd. The most lasting feeling is that of taking the lead against a professional side is something that can never be taken away from us and although the final score suggests Brighton are significantly better than us, it’s those fleeting moments that make it all worthwhile.

A taste for genius… David Bramwell’s Odditorium

David Bramwell’s Odditorium returns and if you’re at all familiar with Dr Bramwell and The Catalyst Club – “celebrating the singular passions of everyday folk” – you’ll know we’re in the world of curious talks, performances, music and arch-weirdness from the fringes of culture. There’ll be people who’ll make you think or maybe smile. Expect the unexpected, as someone else probably said about something else. 

Lucy Cooke Bitch: Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal

Sun 14th 7.30-8.30pm, Bosco Theater

What does it mean to be female? Mother, carer, the weaker sex? Think again. Author and filmmaker Lucy Cooke demonstrates how the female of the species has been marginalised and misunderstood by the scientific patriarchy; not least Darwin, who cast the female in the shape of a Victorian housewife: passive, coy and monogamous.

The Weird and Wonderful World of Some Bizarre Records + The Book of Goth with Wesley Doyle & Cathi Unsworth

Wed 17th 7-8pm, Bosco Theater

Featuring the likes of Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Blancmange and The The, Some Bizarre was the vanguard of outsider music in the 1980s. Label boss Stevo’s unconventional dealings with the industry are legendary. Wesley Doyle tells us how a teenager from Dagenham took on the music industry and beat it at its own game.

Lifelong Goth, music journalist and crime-writer Cathi Unsworth takes us on a journey through Gothic music during the Eighties. 

Sing-Along-A-Wicker Man 50th Anniversary + Magnet’s Peter Brewis

Wed 17th 9-11pm, Spiegeltent 

Dust down your best Scottish accent, dress up as your favourite character and come join in with this horror classic. To mark the 50th anniversary of the film they’re joined by Peter Brewis, who appeared in the film and was  on the Wicker Man soundtrack.

Legacy of the Stones with Jeremy Deller, Annebella Pollen and other guests 

Tues 23rd 9-12pm, Spiegeltent

Billed as “An evening celebrating the rich neolithic history and stories around our henges and monoliths, our folk horror legacies and occult artists and groups”, speakers including Jeremy Deller and Annabella Pollen talk about Britain’s neolithic monuments and counterculture, and how they helped shape his work, and the mysterious green-clad hooded figures of the 1920s who performed ritual gestures (naked, obvs) on Silbury Hill, Stonehenge. The evening wouldn’t be complete without more Wicker Man (which Bramwell claims to have seen over 200 times) in the shape of The Dark Heart of Wicker Land. 

The Drone in Music 

Wed 31st 7.30-8.30pm, Bosco Tent 

Harry Sword, author of “Monolithic Undertow” joins  David Bramwell, for an exploration of the sub-cultural and spiritual significance of ‘the drone’. From the neolithic burial chambers of Malta to the psychedelic glory of Hawkwind; the vital influence of Indian drone traditions on the 1960’s counter culture to the thieving doom and stoner rock underground of today, They’ll also talk about the personal and spiritual significance of the ‘universal hum’.

There’s also a Catalyst Club Special: Live from the End of the Pier at Horatio’s Bar on Palace Pier,  

Tues 9th 8pm